Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Swann Song

I spent a summer as the assistant GM of the U.S. National Semi-Pro Football Team, accompanied the team on its British tour, and heard a ton (metric) of Eric Swann stories on the road to the first-ever World Bowl and over pints in the pubs of the appropriately named British resort town of Blackpool.

Swann was the only semipro player in the modern era to be drafted No. 1 by any team, and by the modern era we mean the days when a scouting trip to watch players did not require knowing the password to a speakeasy.

The members of the U.S. National Semi-Pro Football Team, those who realized that passport photos cannot be taken in the backyard, in front of a tree, with a favorite dog, said that Swann wasn't the best player they ever played against and therefore shouldn't have gone No. 1 to the Cards, but they're wrong. Jackie Robinson wasn't the best baseball player of color; he was the appropriate player.

While Eric Swann was no Jackie Robinson, he was young and properly proportioned and had a clean criminal record, which put him at least one leg up on 90 percent of his semipro competition. Furthermore, he was going to the Cardinals, so it's not like the leap was huge.

If Swann never lived up to the Paul Bunyanesque expectations it's not his fault, or the fault of semi-pro football. Not every trailblazer blazes a trail clean through.

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